The Yule War
( The Greatest Gift )
Geirdis awoke early, rubbed her eyes to clear them, and then threw her legs over the edge of the bed, and got up. She quickly washed herself and dressed. As she had every morning for the past week Geirdis strapped on her sword and grabbed her shield before leaving. Instead of risking Borr's anger by shaking him awake, she simply slammed the door loudly on the way out. What Geirdis saw, or for that matter what she couldn't see, startled her greatly as she tried to look around outside.
The weather had been frigid the day before, and it had snowed part of the afternoon. Overnight, however, the temperature had risen greatly, and the resulting mixture of heated air and snowy ground had caused a thick mist, the likes of which Geirdis had never seen before. No matter how hard she looked in all directions, Geirdis could not see further than several feet in front of her. And when she moved away from the house she nearly fell over the bench in the fog.
Borr's eyes flew open when he heard the door slam shut. The old warrior sighed deeply as he lay in his bed still halfway between the world of dreams and reality. He knew that slamming the door of the hut was a not too subtle way for Geirdis to tell him it was time to get up and start their lessons, but Borr did not like being pushed.
Borr looked over at his still sleeping wife and thought to himself :
" That woman could sleep through an avalanche ! "
The warrior showed no pity to his wife and nudged her several times to wake her.
"If I must get up this early, then so too will you my dear ! " he whispered to his wife sarcastically.
Ingiborg yawned and stretched before sitting up. She sighed deeply before asking sleepily :
" Is it morning already ? "
Borr placed his feet onto the cold floor before answering.
" I am afraid so my dear. " he told her.
Ingiborg put her arms around her husband's waist, and placed her head on his shoulder as though it were a pillow.
" Will you eat before or after our lessons today my love ? " she muttered groggily.
" Afterward ! I have become quite used to eating a late breakfast because of the two of you ! " he replied in a somewhat bitter tone.
Just then Geirdis opened the door and re- entered the hut. Borr could see that she had a perturbed look upon her face, and quickly addressed her concerns before she could complain.
" We are coming Geirdis. Just give us a few moments to collect ourselves, and we will be right with you. " he told her in the nicest tone he could muster.
Geirdis, was not impressed with his words and shuffled dejectedly over to the table and leaned her shield on the floor against one of the legs. Slowly she turned around to reveal a childish pout on her face.
" I am afraid we will have to wait until later to practice. The mist is so thick outside that it would be nearly impossible to see your opponent ! " she told him.
Borr and Ingiborg gave each other a secret little smile, and were about to lay back down when they heard a horse coming from a distance. Moments later they heard a man shouting something that they could not quite make out. All three gave each other a quick nervous look before jumping into action.
Geirdis grabbed her shield and was the first to leave the hut. Borr and Ingiborg partially dressed themselves as quickly as possible and followed her out. All three moved toward the edge of the village as best they could following the sound of the man's voice, who was obviously in distress. Along the way they were joined by others who were feeling their way along in the thick mist as well. When they reached the trenches that surrounded the village they found a horse laying on it's side in agony. Apparently it had broken it's leg in the trench that it could not see. The man was in far much worse shape however. The horse had thrown him into the pit and he had become horribly impaled on several of the sharpened stakes in the bottom.
Borr, Geirdis, and the blacksmith Vestarr, lifted the old man off of the stakes and set him gently in the snow at the edge of the ditch, while the others watched. The man, who had screamed as he was removed from the stakes, continued to moan loudly as he lay there in the freezing snow in severe pain. Judging by the amount of blood that quickly stained the pure white snow they knew that the man did not have long to live. As Borr covered the man with his coat the stranger looked up at him with wild eyes.
" I am Omundi, son of Birgir, father of Rolleifr, and you have to flee ! The Upplanders are coming, .... they are coming now !! " he shouted.
Borr grabbed the man by the neck, raised him up slightly, and asked in a worried and impatient tone :
" How many and how far away ?! " the old warrior demanded to know.
" Fifty or sixty,.... maybe more, .... they did not even stop when the attacked my village. They just rode through killing as many as they could. I only escaped because I was already on horseback tending to my fields south of the village, and heard the screams of my folk and kin. " he told Borr as he began to choke on his own blood.
" How long do we have before they arrive ? ! " Borr asked.
Omundi coughed up a great flow of blood before answering ;
" Not long ! I know the terrain much better than our enemy and therefore made better time, but this fog I am sure slowed both us down. " the old man replied with great difficulty.
Suddenly Omundi became quiet. Borr shook the man violently who seemed to have become unresponsive.
" Were they apart of the main Opplandene army ? " he asked.
The man did not answer. Omundi's eyes stared straight ahead, lifeless and uncaring. Borr dropped the man and turned to Geirdis and Ingiborg.
" Knock on every door ! Warn everyone ! Tell them to come to the north side of the village with their weapons at once !! " he shouted to them.
While the women raced to warn the rest of the villagers, those who were already standing around listening to the old man's dying words, including Borr and Vestarr, raced back to their homes to get their weapons and shields.
It did not take long for everyone to come to the north side of the village. Once there, Vestarr, and Borr lined them on the south side of the half snow covered trench ready for combat. The two strong males had to personally place each one in position because it was impossible for anyone to see further than a few feet in front of them.
Borr had just returned to his place in the shield wall, next to Geirdis and Ingiborg, when he heard the rumble of horses galloping from the north. As they came closer Borr noticed that Geirdis began to shake with fear as her emotions took over her body and her mind.
" Stand firm ladies ! The battle is coming towards us and should be here at any moment ! " he shouted.
As the hoof beats of hundreds of horses came closer and closer Geirdis could not stand it any longer. She would not be ravaged by these Upplanders. When the enemy was almost on top of them she jumped over the ditch and swung her sword at a dark shadow lurking there in the mist on the other side. Borr tried to prevent her from attacking, but he was too late ! He wanted to stop her, not because he did not want her to weaken the shield wall, or even to protect her. The old warrior simply sensed that something was not quite right about all of this !
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : A Ghost In The Mist
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.